Many people have the benefit of their employer helping with the daunting task of retirement planning. As is the case with most things, there are some companies that outperform the rest when it comes to 401(k) plans for their employees.

BrightScope, a three-year-old company that analyzes retirement plans has come out with its annual Top 30 401K list. After pouring over 50,000 retirement plans at companies with more than $1 billion in assets, BrightScope knows a thing or two about what makes a top plan.

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Surprisingly, Southwest Airlines Pilot’s Retirement Savings Plan took the spot number 1 spot on this list. I guess its surprising because you’d think those big bad banks would snatch up number one spot with all of their financial knowhow. Before we take a closer look at this year’s rankings, let’s learn more about how BrightScope comes up with these figures.

How BrightScope Calculates 401(k) Ratings

BrightScope plugs over 200 individual data points into a special algorithm, created by the company, to calculate a special numerical value for the 401(K) plans. Among some of the components analyzed are:

  • Total Plan Cost
  • Company Generosity
  • Investment Menu Quality
  • Participation Rate
  • Salary Deferrals
  • Account Balances

The number one ranking Southwest Airlines Pilot’s Retirement Savings Plan scored in the top 15% for the account balances, salary deferrals, participation rate and company generosity categories and in the 35th-64th percentile for investment menu quality and 65th -84th percentile for total plan cost. Southwest didn’t win by too much though, the company scored a 90.83 while the second place plan came in at 90.83.

Highlights of the Ranking

The entire list compares 3o company plans and includes the 2010 ranking. A total of 7 companies were new to the list this year as indicated by the N/A in their 2010 column.Southern California Permanente Medical Group Retirement Plan experienced the largest drop from number 2 to number 9 in 2011.

Here is a break down of plan by state: New York, Texas, and California each had six companies make this list while Massachusetts, Illinois, Delaware, Tennessee and Oklahoma all had one. New Jersey is home to four companies on this list and Pennsylvania has three.

2010 Rank2011 RankPlan NameU.S. HeadquartersBrightScope Rating
31Southwest Airlines Pilots' Retirement Savings PlaDallas, TX90.83
12The Savings Plan of Saudi Arabian Oil CompanyHouston, TX90.82
N/A3Wellington Retirement and Pension PlaBoston, MA90.13
N/A4Deloitte Profit Sharing PlaNew York, NY89.91
55United Airlines Pilot Directed Account PlanChicago, IL89.11
46Amgen Retirement and Savings PlanThousand Oaks, CA88.99
67Employees Savings and Retirement Plan of Credit SuisseNew York, NY88.44
168Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Investment Savings PlaEast Hanover, NJ88.16
29Southern California Permanente Medical Group Retirement PlaPasadena, CA87.57
710Bayer Corporation Savings and Retirement PlaPittsburgh, PA87.31

Check out the entire list with all 30 companies.

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